The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Web Analytics and Tracking Offline Conversions | Why I Wouldn’t Want to be the Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us


Tracking Offline Sales That Originate Online, Toys R Us Email MarketingMaybe that’s a bit harsh, so let me explain. I’m sure it’s a good job and that the person running email marketing enjoys what he/she does, but there is an inherent issue with that position that would drive me absolutely crazy... So, why wouldn’t I want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? It has to do with sales attribution, tracking offline conversions, and what I’ve witnessed first hand over the past 6 months. Let’s start off with some background information.

Let’s Define Sales Attribution:
The definition of sales attribution is the process by which you assign credit (in this case revenue) to a particular sales channel. If you are using a web analytics package on your e-commerce website (and I hope you are), then sales attribution enables you to break down your revenue by channel (email marketing, paid search, organic search, banner advertising, etc.) to gauge how your marketing campaigns are performing.

Receiving the Email and Then Visiting the Store…
I receive email marketing from Toys R Us frequently (being a parent of 2 young children). If something piques my curiosity, I sometimes click through to the website and browse around. That’s good for Toys R Us and their email marketing manager. But…I almost always buy offline, and that’s not so good for the email marketing manager. Now, I’m sure the person running email marketing wants the best for the company and a sale is a sale, but that specific sale won’t be attributed to the email campaign that sparked the transaction. Do you see where I’m going with this? How would you like it if someone else (or department) always took credit for your hard work? Back to why I purchase toys offline. I think you have to be a parent to understand why I almost always buy offline at a Toys R Us store. You see, it’s actually a blast to visit the store with your kids. And, when weekends sometimes feel like a marathon for parents, it’s a much needed break. The only way I would buy from Toy R Us online is if the store near us didn’t have something I desperately needed in stock (and that’s not often). It’s ironic for me…since I buy everything online, but toys seem to be a different story.

Web Analytics and Sales Attribution
Typically, an email marketing campaign is tagged specifically to be tracked in a web analytics package. This is done via tracking parameters added to the links in the email marketing creative you receive. The tracking variables are appended to the URL in the querystring. To see what I’m talking about, check out the following link from an email I received from Lands End this past weekend.

An email link tagged with tracking variables:
http://www.landsend.com/ix/mens-clothing/index.html?tab=1&cm_mmc=usnews-_-usnews_060108_fs_core-_-topnav-_-menstab

Lands End is using Coremetrics (a web analytics package that I am extremely familiar with). The tagging you see in the querystring will enable the web analytics package to attribute the sale to the email marketing I received on Sunday. Based on what I just showed you, I’m sure you can see why tracking online campaigns is much easier to do than offline campaigns (and why it’s much faster to report). You can track each campaign at a granular level and obviously make decisions based on your reporting to improve campaign performance in the future. That said, you still have a problem with tracking offline conversions that started online (like I explained earlier with receiving an email and then visiting the store.) So, as the sales roll in at the store, the poor email marketing manager back at headquarters won’t really be able to attribute that revenue to his or her campaign. Sure, you can guess that the email drove a certain amount of revenue, but you can’t say for sure… Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways around this issue (for now). However, there are some ways to attempt to capture the sale and attribute it correctly and I’ve listed two ideas below.

Some Ideas for Attributing Sales for Offline Transactions That Originate Online:

1. Include a printable coupon in your email.
If you can provide a printable coupon in your email creative, then you might entice a customer to bring it to the store. If the coupon is used, then you can attribute the sale to your email marketing campaign (as long as your systems can communicate with one another). This is not a new technique and it requires a customer to take a few extra steps, but it can help you attribute the sale to your campaign. Hey, every dollar counts when you’re running that channel, right?

2. Have your cashiers ask the question at checkout.
Now, this is definitely not foolproof, since it’s based on human behavior, but it might work for you. Let’s list a few potential problems… The cashier may never ask the question or ask much less frequently than you want. The customer may not tell the truth or shrug off the question. Let’s face it, relying on people to track your sales is not optimal.

Let's Help The Email Marketing Manager at Toys R Us!
So, can you see why I wouldn’t want to be the email marketing manager at Toys R Us? I can’t imagine how many sales are attributed to other channels. That would drive me nuts! But, we can help... If you’ve received an email from Toys R Us, but visited the store to make your purchase, list the date and dollar amount below. Maybe the email marketing manger can import this data into his/her web analytics package and finally get credit for a job well done!

I’ll start:
May 25th, $72.10

GG

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3 Comments:

  • At 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Lands' End uses Omniture but still uses the cm_mmc parameters for most of their online marketing programs.

     
  • At 1:50 PM, Blogger Glenn Gabe said…

    Let me guess, you work for Omniture. Just kidding. :)

    Regardless of which package you utilize, the core point is that the email was tagged so a web analytics package could track the campaign.

    GG

     
  • At 9:35 PM, Blogger Analytics.Monkey said…

    Transactional systems have email address and phone number - simply run the email addresses against the transactional data in a 3rd database
    - There is a limit on the attribution of email campaigns within web analytics systems. However, you can export Coremetrics data and run it against transactional data in another database.
    Cashiers can also input coupon codes to tie campaigns - again the limitation is web analytics reporting systems - however, these systems are very much at the center of definitions and data capture

     

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